Asking the time in German

In this lesson we find out about how to ask and tell the time. Asking someone the time is a great ice-breaker question, even if you don't really need to know the time! And what's more, asking the time is simple in German. All you need to ask is:

Wieviel Uhr ist es?
What time is it? (Lit: How much hour is it?)
  • Time

You could also ask

Wie spät ist es?
How late is it?

If you wish to ask a stranger for the time in a more polite way, you could say

Können Sie mir bitte sagen wie spät es ist?
Could you please tell me what time it is?

The answer will start with Es ist…. It is…

Zum Beispiel

Es ist neun Uhr
It is nine o’clock (9:00)
Es ist drei Uhr
It is three o’clock (3:00)

Talking about Quarter Hours and Thirty Minutes

You can also tell the time in 15- or 30-minute chunks.

15 min / quarter
viertel vor
quarter to
viertel nach
quarter past
30 min / half

Zum Beispiel

Es ist viertel nach zwei
It’s a quarter past two (2:15)
Es ist halb zwei
It’s half past one (1:30)

The sentence “Es ist halb zwei” literally translates as "it is half two". In German half two “halb zwei” means half way to two, or 1.30. Let’s have a look at some more examples

Es ist halb vier
It’s half past three (3:30)
Es ist halb zehn
It’s half past nine (9:30)
Es ist viertel vor vier
It’s a quarter to four (3:45)
Es ist viertel nach fünf
It’s a quarter past five (5:15)
Es ist viertel nach sieben
It’s a quarter past seven (7:15)

You can also tell how much time remains until striking the hour:

Es ist fünf vor drei
It’s five to three (2:55)
Es ist zehn vor fünf
It’s ten to five (4:50)

Use the word “nach” past, to tell how many minutes past the full hour it is.

Es ist fünf nach zwei
It’s five past two (2:05)
Es ist zwanzig nach vier
It’s twenty past four (4:20)


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